3:30pm ET: A 180-foot, 3-mast replica of the 18th century tall ship HMS Bounty sank on Monday, Oct. 29 during the epic surf and winds from Hurricane Sandy, 90 miles southeast of Hatteras, North Carolina. Sixteen people were aboard when the ship went down midway through its journey from Connecticut to Florida.
Fourteen people on the ship made it to life rafts and on to safety, thanks to a dramatic rescue by the US Coast Guard documented in the video above. "On scene weather was reported to be 40 mph winds and 18-foot seas," according to the USCG statement. "The vessel is reportedly sunk, but the mast is still visible."
Two crew members remain missing: Captain Robin Walbridge, and Claudene Christian (Twitter, web). According to various reports, Christian is a distant relative of original HMS Bounty crew member Fletcher Christian, the original Master’s Mate who seized command of the ship during the historic mutiny.
We're told the crew had only handheld radios once they abandoned ship, so there was not contact until the aircraft got near the scene.
The Bounty was built for a 1962 film and has been featured in one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. The Bounty has been to Carteret County a couple times, back in the 2000s. According to its website, the Bounty "sails the country offering dockside tours in which one can learn about the history and details of sailing vessels from a lost and romanticized time in maritime history."
It's not clear why the ship set sail in the Atlantic Ocean with Hurricane Sandy churning up the East Coast.
Andrew Thaler of Southern Fried Science has been tweeting about the incident. From the updates posted on the ship's Facebook page, it looks like they were trying to ride out the storm when the generators failed.
I am no maritime expert, but I do know that sometimes the safest place for a ship to be during a storm is out on the water—particularly if heading in to shore poses new hazards. I'd want to know more about the options they had, before second-guessing the captain and crew.
@xeni Absolutely. At 180 feet, the Bounty could easily handle 18 foot seas. It was the combination of storm and power failure that sunk it.— Andrew Thaler (@SFriedScientist) October 29, 2012
@xeni the Bounty had literally left drydock on October 21 after a month of maintenance work. Couldn't have anticipated total power failure.— Andrew Thaler (@SFriedScientist) October 29, 2012
Below, the last few images uploaded to the HMS Bounty's Facebook account. First, Captain Robin Walbridge, who remains missing after the ship sank.
Good evening Miss Tracie. I think we are going to be into this for several days, the weater looks like even after the eye goes by it will linger for a couple of days. We are just going to keep trying to go fast and squeese by the storm and land as fast as we can. I am thinking that we will pass each other sometime Sunday night or Monday morning All else is well.—Robin